Funding Bill Includes More of the Same Unconditional Military Aid to Egypt

The budget bill unveiled on Tuesday, set to fund the government for the next six months, includes $1.3 billion in unconditional military assistance for Egypt. The lack of any new measures for oversight of military aid bound for Egypt is alarming, particularly in the wake of testimonies from female detainees subjected to coerced "virginity tests" by the military and of the Egyptian army’s brutal crackdown which reportedly killed two protesters and wounded dozens on April 9th.

This lack of oversight stands in stark contrast to the Senate’s earlier version of the budget bill, which would have required that "prior to the disbursement of funds" for the Foreign Military Financing program that designates military aid to Egypt, "the Secretary of State should report to the Committees on Appropriations" that the Egyptian government enacted a number of specified reforms. H.R. 1473, which is scheduled for a vote on Thursday, does require Secretary Clinton to submit a report on those same reforms, but it does not in any way condition military aid to the Egyptian government's success at meeting these basic human rights and democratization standards.

Certainly, it is a testament to the power of the Egyptian pro-democracy movement that their core demands for revolutionary reform of their government are largely spelled out in Congress’s requirements for the content of the report. Not only did the reporting requirement shift from being a precondition for aid in the Senate version to being merely an report required to accompany the aid, the report was also taken out entirely from the section on military aid to Egypt and moved to being included to the section dealing with the $250 million dollars designated for economic aid for Egypt. While the Senate version required Egypt to meet these same human rights and democratization standards before receiving the aid, the reporting requirement in the final version of the bill would not necessarily impact the cash flow of any U.S. assistance to Egypt.

This report on the Egyptian government’s progress towards a democratic transition doesn’t have ‘real teeth’ in the new budget bill, but it does have the potential to help draw attention in and outside the Beltway to the need for ensuring accountability for all U.S. aid to Egypt.

EGYPTIAN DEMOCRACY REPORT REQUIRED FROM CLINTON

HR 1473, the budget bill intended to fund government operations through September 30th, requires that Secretary of State Clinton report to Congress within 45 days of the passage of the bill on whether the Egyptian government has met certain democratization demands called for by its domestic pro-democracy movement. Secretary Clinton is required to present a report “detailing whether---

(1) a transparent, political transition is occurring that includes the participation of a wide range of democratic opposition and civil society leaders and is responsive to their views;
(2) the emergency law and other laws restricting human rights have been abrogated; protesters, political and social activists and journalists are not being arrested, detained or prosecuted for the peaceful exercise of their rights; and the government is respecting freedoms of expression, assembly and association; and
(3) legal and constitutional impediments to free and fair presidential and parliamentary elections are being removed.”

While the report language doesn’t specifically mention the protesters’ core demand for the restoration of full judicial supervision of elections, it does require Secretary Clinton to investigate whether the Egyptian government has removed “legal and constitutional impediments to free and fair presidential and parliamentary elections”.

WILL THE CLINTON REPORT ON EGYPT MATTER?

Assuming that the FY11 budget is enacted before May, Secretary Clinton would be required to submit the report by mid-June. Egyptian officials have vowed to remove the emergency law before the parliamentary elections, which are scheduled for September. Accordingly, by mid-June, the government’s progress to enact sweeping democratic reforms should be well under way.

And what if they aren’t? Congress caved this year but the fight to get conditions attached to aid to Egypt for FY2012 has only just begun. It is also crucial that attention to this upcoming report from the Administration on Egypt grows so that up to and after its release, pro-democracy supporters within the United States scrutinize the evidence carefully as to whether their tax money will be used for the repression of the pro-democracy movement in Egypt.

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